Mentoring program fosters voice of Alaska youth

• This weekend workshops, performances in Homer

By Christian Whiting
Homer Tribune
This week Bunnell Street Arts Center and Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic’s R.E.C. Room will present Brave New Alaskan Voices, a national slam troupe from Anchorage. BNAV works with youth to develop literacy through poetry and performance by providing opportunities for performance, workshops, individual mentoring and community cultivation.
“Our goal is to create and foster an artistic environment of self expression for youth ages 13-19,” said Coach Free, aka Trey Josey. “We do this by creating safe spaces and workshops for youth to refine and present personal artistic contributions.
“Performing demands that youth learn how to transform thought into action, as a function of language arts. Original creations mean that youth experience risk, even as supportive audiences provide positive feedback that allows growth,” he said. “Workshops are BNAV-led forums that include youth as teachers. This practice not only helps to build confidence and camaraderie, but also a genuine sense of responsibility, and BNAV’s talented cadre of program leaders acts as mentors.”

Photos provided - Youth perform spoken word pieces as part of Brave New Alaskan Voices. BNAV is a slam troupe form Anchorage that aims to develop literacy through performance, workshop and mentoring.

Photos provided –
Youth perform spoken word pieces as part of Brave New Alaskan Voices. BNAV is a slam troupe form Anchorage that aims to develop literacy through performance, workshop and mentoring.

“BNAV performers will offer workshops, as well as a community performance in Homer from Nov. 21-23.
“We’re coming to Homer as part of our mission to spread ‘safe spaces’ across Alaska,” Josey said. “We want to establish a site in Homer. Youth need a space and structure that provides them with a platform to establish their place in the world, their own voice and mentors who believe in them.
“BNAV nourishes extremely important characteristics like leadership, active-listening and the importance of working together,” he said. It builds fellow camaraderie within a structure that invites active engagement from each other and their listeners, topped with a little dose of healthy competition. This is an extremely healthy and creative way for youth to communicate thoughts and feelings or to bring attention to causes. We’re excited to have been invited to offer this program in Homer.”
Josey and Kima Hamilton founded BNAV in 2011, with a dream of spreading youth poetry across the state. To date, hundreds of youth have participated in BNAV-hosted poetry slams. One such youth is Hayden Kotelman.
“Being a part of the program last year as a performer has changed me,” Kotelman said. “I’m only 18, but the transformation that’s taken place from the beginning of last season to the beginning of this one is huge. I’m nearly a different person. If this program does anything above all else, it creates a space for youth to grow in ways that the traditional education system, I believe, has failed. As small of an organization as BNAV is now, I think we’ve reached a lot of kids. When the support starts pouring in from communities around Alaska, I can’t wait to see where we’ll go from here.”
In the last three years, BNAV has hosted dozens of youth-led workshops.
“In order for youth to get involved with BNAV, all they need to do is participate in a slam, workshop or community event,” Josey said. “In order for a Homer youth to make the team, there needs to be a statewide network, which we’re in the beginning processes of creating now.”
BNAV is looking to create networks in seven Alaska cities, including Homer, Juneau, Kodiak, Fairbanks, Anchorage, Mat-su and Seward. Anchorage is currently the only operational site.
Teams compete to participate in an annual, national competition. The 17th-Annual International Spoken Word and Poetry Festival will be held in Philadelphia in July. The festival lasts five days, and includes 500+ poets ages 13-19 from all across the globe.
“For one week, these young poets contribute their voices to an international dialogue,” Josey said.
Along with Bunnell Street Arts Center, the R.E.C. Room is cosponsoring Homer’s program. The R.E.C Room’s mission is to facilitate healthy relationships, health education and healthy choices for the youth of Homer.
“We work hard to engage youth with after-school activities and programming,” said Anna Meredith, Youth Program Manager at KBFPC. “We’re coordinating with Youth On Record Alaska, a Haven House collaboration run by Cody Davidson that teaches youth how to produce and record digital music. Many of the youth in Cody’s classes have produced music and now wish to take the next step of laying down lyrics. During the BNAV workshops, leaders will prompt the creative inner expression to come out in words, stanzas, lines of feelings and inspiration.”
Parents play an integral role in encouraging youth to participate.
“Going to a workshop can be intimidating, so explaining the easy-going and peer supported, adult supervised environment of the R.E.C. Room is important,” Meredith said. “Parents can also view some BNAV performances with their kids, so that both gain interest and understanding.”
Performances can be viewed on YouTube at and on Facebook at
In Homer, BNAV presents two youth workshops, both held at the R.E.C. Room on Thursday, Nov. 21, 3-6 p.m., and Friday, Nov. 22 with Youth on Record, 3:30 -6 p.m. at the R.E.C. Room. They will perform for students at Homer High on Nov. 22 at 2:30 p.m. There will be a public performance by BNAV performers this Saturday, Nov. 23, from 6:30-8 p.m. at K-Bay Caffé. It is open to all and by donation.
Youth ages 13 to 19 are encouraged to participate in either or both workshops. Workshops are free to attend and no registration is required. For more information, contact the R.E.C. Room at 235-6736 or
“Our aim is to create a statewide Alaska network of youth poet activists,” Josey said. “When we say activist, we mean a more engaged citizen. We believe that an informed student that is aware of his or her voice and has the passion to use it is a beautiful thing. Students use their poems to educate others about issues that are important to them.”

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Posted by on Nov 19th, 2013 and filed under Arts, Entertainment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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